Is tax season stress season for you and your small business? This year, with a little planning and effort, preparing your tax return can go smoothly. Tracey Evans, owner of Minneapolis-based First Tier Accounting LLC, specializes in helping small-business owners manage their finances, and by using her tips below, the tax season will be behind you in no time.
- Plan ahead. Hire someone to help manage your finances. A bookkeeper is useful, but you’ll benefit more from staffing someone whose experience exceeds spreadsheets. Enlist an advisor to support your budgeting, cash flow and tax planning. Need to send your advisor hard copies of receipts and tax forms? The self-service fax machines at FedEx Office locations are user-friendly and convenient—some are even available 24 hours.
- Manage your paperwork. Organize and file important documents like bank statements, receipts and invoices. You don’t need a sophisticated system—keep it as simple as one file folder for each month’s documents—as long as you have an organized method for keeping your important records. Want to save your hard-copy files electronically? Scan them at FedEx Office and store them on your hard drive.
- Back up your files. Spend time every week on bookkeeping tasks. Be sure to back up your data daily, especially if there’s been a lot of accounting activity.
- Keep current. Stay up to date by reconciling bank accounts, updating your accounting system and maintaining your books so they’re current and accurate when you need them.
- Fail to file. Using the shoebox method for storing important materials will only create chaos. Keep your receipts, invoices, bank statements and other documents organized to help make preparing your taxes a snap.
- Blend business and personal. Keep business expenses, income and accounts separate from all personal finances to avoid confusion at tax time.
- Create bad habits. Resist the temptation to procrastinate. Maintaining an active routine with your recordkeeping and account reconciliation will keep you on track. It may seem like a pesky detail, but setting aside 30 minutes or so every day, or once a week, will save you time in the long run.
When you get in the habit of these fundamentals, you’ll save time and frustration—and stress—later on.
Perhaps this advice has convinced you to hire an accountant. Evans makes these recommendations for finding the right one:
- Choose someone who is responsive and timely. A good indication of their responsiveness? How quickly they return your call or e-mail. You want to be on their priority list, not their back burner.
- Ask around for a personal referral. If a friend or family member endorses an accountant or certified public accountant, odds are you’ll be in good hands.
- Look for someone with experience in your industry. Many accountants specialize in a particular field. Choose one who understands your work.
- Find one who’s right for you, personally. Like in picking a doctor or dentist, subjective preferences play a role. You’ll be forming a long-term relationship with this person, so if your communication skills clash, keep looking.
Racing the clock
April 17 is fast approaching. Feeling the time crunch? We can help. Go to FedEx Office to print, fax and file your important documents. And because FedEx Office is a designated private delivery service of the IRS, when you use FedEx services to deliver your tax return, your tracking number is official proof that you made the deadline.
Betsy Kroon is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor covering a variety of small business topics.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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